I Don’t Wanna Be Black No More
Somewhere in the past twelve months of Black folks being associated with “the whip (and the Nae Nae),” “Trap Queens,” Empire’s negative stereotyping, Drake’s attempts at cha cha dancing, Ben Carson’s Presidential run, likely tons of other things I’m forgetting and all of us just singing back at Kendrick Lamar that “we gon be alright,” instead of turning up with wholesale social change attached, I think I reached peak Black frustration. Being black in 2015 feels incredibly stupid, frightening, potentially murderous and largely irrelevant to anything of consequence happening in rapidly advancing modern life, and I think I’m done with it.
I’m just going to be a “Marcus,” and rise above this Black skin that feels affiliated to so many foolhardy things. Maybe I’ll just fade away from Blackness for a bit; maybe I’ll even stay away from Blackness forever.
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I mean, there are people who will happily tell me that being Black is everything and that I should be happy because amazing Blackness is everywhere right now. I mean, literally sitting in front of me on my desk is a signed copy of Shonda Rhimes Year of Yes, which is amazing because Shonda currently writes a whole night of television for ABC. This is the same ABC that as a network that has gone from Black nerd Steve Urkel asking “Did I do that?” on Family Matters to a Black woman holding the up the entire network’s ratings on her back. That’s amazing, but also quite problematic.
I mean, that might be my problem with being Black right now, too. It wasn’t enough for Black people to have to suffer through slavery, Jim Crow, the death of Malcolm and Martin, COINTELPRO and the idea that “post-racialism” was okay. No, now we’re kind of holding together the established industrial and digital world in the face of the next wave of the digital age, too.
Network TVs ratings are sagging, and there’re Black people holding them up. Nobody knows what to do with Twitter, maybe save #Blacktwitter, which fosters the development of the memes that presently drive popular culture. Black people are saving the music industry, too, just when you thought the music industry was squarely on the backs of Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber. Black artists like Missy Elliott and hell, even Craig David, are putting out new material. Somehow, while Black people are more commercially in vogue than ever before, we may be sacrificing our place in the future by cashing in on the present.
I think the actual day that I stopped wanting to be Black was at some point in August 2008, when I realized that Barack Obama was certain to be elected as the 44th President of the United States. There was no greater Black accomplishment. It was like this artificial cap had been placed on levels of Black achievement, and that maybe, just maybe, as fucked up as it sounds, being Black was still cool, but “peak Black greatness” had been achieved.
In the past eight years since Obama’s been in office, I’ve seen more attempts by great and new Black singers, athletes, politicians, social leaders, doctors, lawyers, etc. to be greater than those who preceded them. I don’t think I need to see anymore.
Also, as long as Ta-Nehisi Coates tells me that my Black body will be “destroyed,” being Black in the present day feels like a gift with the worst of curses attached. The idea of being unfathomably successful but also just as easily murder-worthy by those meant to protect and serve me is downright frightening. It’s like, society tells me “here’s money, fame and ‘power,’ but here’s a giant target that we’re going to actually place on your body!” If I can have fame and success, great. But if breathing another day involves me having to trade in my Blackness for the ability to lose what feels like a literal target attached to my body? Well, I’m now at a place where I’m all for making said trade.
Even worse regarding my relationship to my Blackness is the idea that I’m supposed to be angry about the war that’s developing in France, spurred on by largely brown-skinned Muslims retaliating against greater French society. I’m not angry about this for the reasons that I’m supposed to be angry about this, though. Yes, loss of human life is terrible. But when it’s the result of bigotry, “palpabale fear” and right-wing anti-brown person aggression, it’s like, so, that dream of being like Josephine Baker and James Baldwin and heading to Paris to be a happy and rejuvenated Black person isn’t going to happen either…shit.
I’m not going to be one of those annoying Black people that decides to be conflicted about my race and suddenly appear to be some race traitor that denies his Black heritage. I’m not going to be Tiger Woods and invent being “Cablinasian,” either. I’m also deciding against the idea I posited a year ago that I want to be a White woman. I’ve seen Caitlyn Jenner try, and outside of getting to wear fabulous couture, it looks really hard. Basically, I’m just not going to be actively Black.
There’s a whole universe out there that’s advancing into a future that doesn’t have many Black people in it because Black people are too busy celebrating an already antiquated level of success. As well, Kendrick might tell us that this notion of death creeping into our still largely all-Black ghettos is okay because “we gon be alright,” but when gentrification policies and the police department exist to ensure that’s not the case, I get worried.
In fact, I get so worried that my only recourse is to publicly state that “I don’t wanna be Black no more.”